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FLYING WITH YOUR BABY / BROOD — PART 4: Travel Day! A Curb-To-Curb How-To

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1. BRING YOUR STROLLER.

I don’t care if you don’t generally use a stroller, or you won’t be using a stroller at your destination. You will be using it in the airport! You will be using it to push ALL THE CRAP I MADE YOU PACK IN YOUR CARRY-ON from the curb to the departures gate, and then back from your arrivals gate to the curb again on the other side.

That said, don’t bring a stroller that is difficult to collapse or has to be taken apart. Traveling with my Bugaboo when Diddy was a baby was the direct cause of me returning home and immediately selling it to an unsuspecting FTM so I could go buy a City Mini instead. I friggin’ love my City Mini, and my Double City Mini, so incredibly much that if you take nothing else away from this blog, take this:

BUY A CITY MINI.

 

2. WEAR YOUR BABY.

Yep. Even if he’s usually in the stroller. Your stroller will be busy PUSHING ALL YOUR CARRY-ON CRAP THROUGH THE AIRPORT.

So wear your baby. If you don’t already have an Ergo Baby Carrier, this might be a good time to get one — mostly because it is SUPER COMFY to wear, supports kids up to 12-45 lbs (and also 7-12 lbs, if you use the insert), and has pockets that are perfect for stashing pacifiers and boarding passes in. And you can wear your kid in front or in back. And it’s just awesome. Really. Especially for long days at the airport …

Are your kids expert walkers? Then make them walk. It’s good for them. It’ll get their wiggles out before you hit the plane.

 

3. BRINGING YOUR CAR SEAT? PILE IT ON THE STROLLER.

Then load all your other carry-on crap around it somehow. You will figure it out. You’re a smart chick, despite having planned to travel by air with your baby and other assorted small children.

Even if you’re not bringing your car seat on the plane, don’t check it in luggage. Drag it through the airport, and check it at the gate. It’s less likely to get damaged if you check it at the gate then if you put it in checked luggage. (Or so I think. Anybody working for baggage wanna disabuse me of this notion?)

Oh and: if you booked a separate seat for your baby or toddler, and you ARE bringing a car seat for that there extra seat, here’s something you need to know:

THE CAR SEAT HAS TO BE INSTALLED IN THE WINDOW SEAT.  It’s a FAA regulation — in case of emergency, you can’t slow passengers down by having a car seat blocking their exit to the aisle. Which means if you are traveling with a car seat, you are stuck sitting in the middle seat.

UNLESS:

You try the crafty “book-the-window-and-the-aisle-and-hope-the-middle-seat-goes-unbooked” trick to try to win the whole row for yourself. Best case: you win the whole row. Worst case: you make someone’s day when she shows up expecting to be sandwiched in the middle seat the entire flight and is suddenly GIFTED the aisle seat you’d bought because you have to go sit next to your WINDOW SEAT kid.

Oh and: if your kid has recently graduated from his INFANT SEAT to a CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT, but still realistically can fit in his infant seat — travel with the infant seat. WAY SMALLER. WAY LIGHTER. WAY EASIER TO INSTALL ON THE AIRPLANE.

 

4. COUNT EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU LOAD IT IN YOUR CAR.

Suitcases + carry-ons + stroller + car seat + whatever your kid insists in carrying in her arms = TOTAL LUGGAGE NUMBER.

Memorize that TOTAL LUGGAGE NUMBER.

 

5. COUNT EVERYTHING AFTER YOU ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT.

Make sure you still have the same amount of stuff you packed IN the car when you get OUT of the car — double check your TOTAL LUGGAGE NUMBER hasn’t changed.

 

6. CHECK EVERYTHING YOU CAN — BESIDES THE STROLLER AND CAR SEAT.

I know it’s a PITA to lug the car seat through the airport. I just feel — I know I’m repeating myself — that car seats get less banged around when you check them at the gate than when you check them with checked luggage.

THAT SAID:

Mr. Big(Ideas) once packed two of our brand new Radians inside their original boxes but sans their original package padding and checked them through from NY to LA. Those boxes were way banged up — I’m sure I’ve been in car wrecks where my car seats sustained less damage. But we were many many many kids in at this point and I decided if the seats didn’t actually SHOW damage, I wasn’t spending another  $500+ to replace them. So I didn’t.

So I don’t judge if you decide to check your car seats at check-in, protected by nothing but that airline plastic bag.

 

7. NOW COUNT WHAT YOUR LEFT CARRYING THROUGH THE AIRPORT.

Carry-on bags + stroller + car seat + whatever your kids insists in carrying in her arms = CARRY-ON NUMBER.

 

8. PURCHASE MILK AND WATER IN THE AIRPORT AFTER GOING THROUGH SECURITY.

Seriously: if you can possibly avoid carrying milk and mixed formula through security, AVOID IT. Not worth the PITA of having all your bottles tested for explosive residues.

Mix your formula with water you purchase AFTER getting through security. And fill bottles and sippy cups with milk that way, too. Do this in the airport before boarding, because you want liquids your kids can swallow to reduce air-pressure pain, ready to go for take-off.

Oh and, as long as we’re talking sippy cups, I truly adore The Safe Sporter by Kid Basix
for travel. They’re stainless steel, so they insulate beverages well; they only have TWO pieces (the cup and the top) so they are easy to rinse clean wherever you happen to be rinsing things; and they come in several colors, so you can assign each kid a color and easily figure out whose cup is whose when you’re on-the-go.

Love them.

 

9. IF YOUR BABY IS MOBILE, LET HIM CRAWL AROUND THE GATE AREA BEFORE YOU BOARD.

You want him to get his crazies out as much as you can before you try to keep him still for hours and hours and hours.

Also, letting him crawl around the gate calls attention to your baby. Other passengers DIG CRAWLING BABIES. That affection for your baby may be very helpful when you actually get on the plane. For instance: recently I flew alone with Pancake. He made a LOT of friends while crawling around the gate area. Four hours later, he was weeping his eyes out at 30,000 feet — until one of his pals from the gate started playing peek-a-boo with him FROM ACROSS THE AISLE. It was awesome. Worth every single germ he could have picked up on the airport floor.

 

10. CHANGE DIAPERS / VISIT THE BATHROOM IMMEDIATELY BEFORE BOARDING.

The less time spent in airplane bathrooms, the better. It was like that BEFORE you had kids. It’s WAY MORE LIKE THAT NOW. Promise.

 

11. COUNT YOUR CARRY-ONS AGAIN AFTER YOU GET ON THE PLANE.

Carry-on Number, less the stroller. You checked the stroller at the gate.

 

12. INTRODUCE YOUR KIDS TO THE PEOPLE IN FRONT OF THEM.

If your children are old enough to get it, introduce them to the people sitting in front of you. Let them know that those nice people want to have a pleasant trip, and therefore it is not cool to scream and fight and kick their seats, because it will bother their new friends / scary-new-authority-figures-you-are-trying-to-offload disciplinary-duty on.

Don’t be ashamed to use your new friends in the row in front of you as threats, In the same way that your kids’ preschool teachers command more respect than you do — so do the poor souls who had the bad fortune to sit in front of you and your brood.

Also, if you are installing a car seat that will make it impossible for the person in the row in front of you to recline fully — APOLOGIZE IN ADVANCE and offer to buy them drinks or movies.

I have heard of people handing out ear plugs to passengers sitting near their children, too.  That said, most basic baby noise tends to get lost in the white noise of the plane. I have had my kids wail through many, many flights, only to have people only three or four rows back tell me how good-natured and well-behaved they were.

 

13. OFFER LIQUIDS AT TAKE-OFF.

Nurse if you’re nursing. If not, give your kids the drinks you bought at the airport. Swallowing things helps lessen the pain of air-pressure changes as you take-off.

Sucking on a pacifier also helps. Diddy sucks her fingers still, so I tell her to do that, because when I hand her gum she swallows it. Every time. No learning curve, that one.

 

14. AMUSE YOUR KIDS ONLY IF YOU HAVE TO.

Do not provide the food and toys you packed until necessary. Maybe you can buy time with the in-flight entertainment, or maybe your kids just want to stare out the window at the clouds. LET THEM. Hold back then heavy artillery until you need it.

Then DEPLOY IT as much as needed!

 

15. SNACKS ARE YOUR FRIENDS.

You know how you eat when you’re bored? Your kids will, too. When the toys and TV aren’t doing the trick, ply them with snacks.

On my recent flight with Pancake, I swear I fed him for 3 hours straight.

 

16. OFFER LIQUIDS AT LANDING.

Yep — same logic as take-off applies.

 

17. COUNT YOUR CARRY-ONS AGAIN AFTER YOU GET OFF THE PLANE.

And don’t forget to pick up your stroller and/or car seats at the gate! (Not that you would EVER forget the stroller. You need it to load all your crap into, remember?)

 

18. COUNT EVERYTHING AGAIN AFTER YOU RE-CLAIM YOUR LUGGAGE.

Yep — trot out the TOTAL LUGGAGE NUMBER again and be sure it’s the same number you started the day with. If it’s not … well, let’s not go there, shall we? The idea of spending any extra time in an airport with your kids, trying to track down lost luggage, is just to miserable to even begin to comprehend.

 

FINALLY:

Congrats! You made it!

Now go have a good time.

 

This post is one of a 4-part series on Flying with Your Baby / Brood.
Part 1: Plan the Attack!
Part 2: Packing. Packing. And More Packing!
Part 3: Coping with Carry-ons
Part 4: Travel Day! A Curb-To-Curb How-To

Destination Maternity Corporation

 

Related posts:

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Categories: Checklists, Diddy, K-6, Mr. Big(Ideas), Pancake, and Traveling.

22 Responses to FLYING WITH YOUR BABY / BROOD — PART 4: Travel Day! A Curb-To-Curb How-To

  • Donna Tetreault
    March 26, 2012

    This is GOOD ADVICE! Will use in the next few weeks!

  • Christina Simon
    March 26, 2012

    All good advice! You cannot bring enough snacks and new toys. That has been the advice that saved us.

  • Gina Osher
    March 26, 2012

    All great advice! One thing we did when our kids were a little older, but still in diapers was to put them in overnight pullups. That way if they only peed it would last way longer & I could just stand them in their seats, change the diaper & avoid the restroom nightmare.

    • checklistmommy
      March 26, 2012

      That’s a great idea — and I second the “change them in their seats” if possible. Though a few trips back I got SERIOUSLY chewed out by a flight attendant who flipped out on me for changing Sausage in our seat. On top of a changing pad. I wanted to kick her in the head.

  • Sarah
    March 26, 2012

    These are all SO true – great advice! For little ones (2 and younger), even if you didn’t purchase an individual seat for them, airlines often will allow you to bring your car seat on board and assume an empty seat if available. Just another reason to consider checking the car seat at the gate instead of at the ticket counter.

    • checklistmommy
      March 26, 2012

      Sarah — thanks for pointing that out! I knew I’d forgotten something! Yes yes yes — another great reason to carry your car seat to the gate!

  • Christina Simon
    March 26, 2012

    I just had another memory of a flight from LA to Boston. I sat next to a mom, dad and 18 month old little boy. They did not buy him a seat, but tried to hold him on their lap. It didn’t work. She screamed the entire trip. After the guy in front of us yelled at the mom to make him shut up, I told the guy to shut up and tried to help the mom who was crying herself. If you can possibly afford it, that extra seat for your child an really help. And, the strollers are key too!

    • checklistmommy
      March 26, 2012

      I so agree! I always try to buy that extra seat if only so I can get three seconds to myself … I also find that a car seat is a very calming place for most kids, as they are used to being immobilized there. Mama’s arms, not so much.

  • Rachel P
    March 26, 2012

    As a mommy blogger who has a resource guide dedicated to travel tips with baby, I still learned a LOT from this post. Thanks! #2 is one of the most important points, because if you wear your baby through security, it is a lot easier to take off your shoes, take out your laptop, collapse your stroller (yes, I have an Uppa that needs to be collapsed and the wheels taken off, and yes, I have delayed a trip twice just because of how much I fear trying to get the stroller in the bag at the gate. But that bag has a warranty for the stroller so I will do it :) If I had my son when I lived in LA, I would have purchased a City Mini hands down. But the Uppa or Bugaboo are much better city strollers, since I was out for hours with the pram attachment and that huge basket was a lifesaver for me. My mom still asks to take the baby on Sunday mornings so she can use the UppaBaby basket at the farmer’s market :)

    Two quick points: if you buy the car seat bag from JJ Cole (the backpack one, the one with wheels often breaks quickly) you can check it at the baggage check without a scratch, and it is so big you can fit diapers, wipes and a ton of other things in the bag. Also, this does not count towards your baggage amounts on Southwest, Virgin or Jet Blue (I don’t fly other airlines :) Security can still be a huge pain if you have formula powder. They can and often will bomb detect that. When I was breastfeeding I often got through with only a physical check (one time out of five they did a thorough search but no bomb check). I am not sure what to do with my baby purees for an upcoming flight – are those considered liquids? Thanks!

    • checklistmommy
      March 27, 2012

      GREAT ADVICE re. stuffing that car seat bag with soft goods like diapers and blankets — perfect padding for car seat!

      Yep — those purees are liquids. Bring the TSA print-out on baby food allowances etc. and try to talk you way into not having them tested by showing they are still sealed. Maybe you’ll hit a reasonable agent? If not, though, be prepared to open all that food … SO ANNOYING.

  • Rachel P
    March 26, 2012

    PS – my last flight with my son he was three months old. Good luck to me next month when he will almost be ten months…those drink coupons are going to be a lifesaver and I am definitely trying the baby crawling trick!

    PPS – Virgin America is AMAZING with babies. They made the guy next to me move (when he did not want to they bought him a drink and a movie), held the baby when I went to the bathroom and safeguarded a bathroom in the back while I pumped.

    • checklistmommy
      March 27, 2012

      That is awesome re. Virgin America — I’m flying them in a few weeks with Sausage (now 14 mos — kill me now). Last time through Jet Blue, a TSA agent actually HELPED ME THROUGH SECURITY in Burbank, than a gate agent CARRIED MY CAR SEAT out on to the tarmac and up the ramp to the plane. Coming back, a steward carried my stuff OFF THE PLANE for me. I figured they were trying to make up for all the bad publicity they had a few weeks back, tossing the tantruming toddler …

  • Practical Parenting
    March 27, 2012

    All great tips!

    I always pack extra ziploc bags for used cups/bottles…even when you rinse them out they can still be a mess, plus if you stick then in a bag you know for sure what needs washing once you land.

    We always buy an extra seat just to have breathing room, but we don’t travel that often…

    Always fly direct. For older toddlers and preschoolers – prep them for the security check. Twice my son’s angel dear lovey has been ripped from his hands by security…not good.

    And lollipops for take off and landing. Ok…and maybe I dole out jelly beans if the going gets tough ;)

    • checklistmommy
      March 27, 2012

      Yes! Extra ziplocs are a must!

      I also always pack the SNACKS in a grocery bag, with an extra grocery bag stuffed inside that we use as our trash bag for the flight.

      Lollipops is a great idea, too …

  • Noel
    March 28, 2012

    Dear Checklist Mommmy –

    I have an question unrelated to the above (highly informational) blog post. I’m a new mother and the number one piece of advice I’m told is to “get that baby on a schedule.” I’m a little lost on where to start. I’m nursing her on demand, which is approximately every 2-3 hours. Other than feedings and changings, we go through the day getting to whatever household tasks we can. Do you have any tips for creating and maintaining a schedule?

    Sincerely,
    Noel

    • checklistmommy
      March 28, 2012

      Noel –

      You really have hit upon my, oh, I dunno — FAVORITE THING ON EARTH TO TALK ABOUT.

      First off:

      Buy “The Baby Whisperer.” I talk more about that book — and you can click the links there straight to Amazon if you like — here:

      http://www.checklistmommy.com/2012/02/01/second-book-to-read-before-you-pop-that-kid-secrets-of-the-baby-whisperer-by-tracy-hogg-and-melinda-blau/

      Basically, you want to set up a basic routine that looks like this:

      EAT
      ACTIVITY
      SLEEP
      YOU TIME!

      So if your baby is waking at 7 am to eat, your routine would look sort of like this:

      7 am wake up, EAT
      745 ACTIVITY — play, change diapers, etc.
      815/830 ish — SLEEP / YOU TIME!
      930 / 10 wake up, EAT
      and repeat until bedtime!

      Overnight, obviously, just eat/sleep/eat/sleep, and do your very best NOT to change diapers overnight unless you have to (is. if your kid has super-sensitive skin, or is a big night-time pooper).

      How old is your baby?

      Good luck!
      ChecklistMommy

  • Noel
    March 28, 2012

    ChecklistMommy –

    Thank you for your council. I will investigate the EASY method, and aforementioned book. Yay for Amazon books!

    My baby is a month and some change. She is a easy-going gal and (so far) we have had no issue with our ‘whatever baby wants, baby gets’ routine. However, hearing the advice to get baby on a schedule makes me want to be informed on the subject.

    Also, I appreciate the gusto in which you responded to my request. I’m highly entertained by the enthusiasm in your posts.

    Sincerely,
    Noel

  • Pauline Gaines
    March 30, 2012

    This makes me SO happy my kids are big (10 and 14!!) and that those days of barely-surviving air travel are over!! But seriously — where were you and these tips when I needed you?

    • checklistmommy
      March 30, 2012

      Oh Pauline … I DREAM of my kids being 10 and 14 (hmm … although in my case, my kids will be 10, 10, 12, and 14 ;))

  • Bragan
    July 16, 2012

    Love the travel checklist- I have 3 little boys, 6, 3, &1, and have traveled plenty with 2, but never with 3. So my question is- Can you take the Double City Mini to the gate? Does it fit through security? or rather, Can you/ or do you have to put it through the xray?
    Any thoughts would be great!
    Thanks

    • checklistmommy
      July 25, 2012

      You CAN take the Double City Mini to the gate — I always do. If it doesn’t fit through the scanner, Security will hand-wand it for you. Good luck!

  • Rosemary
    October 22, 2013

    Seriously, where have you been all my life?
    All this info has put my travel jitters to rest. I <3 my city mini double too! I'm so happy it will work at the airport. Wheee!

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About Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a novelist living in New York City. Four kids later, I'm a blogger living in LA who writes about parenting, partnering, and the rise and fall of my family / my home / civilization. I'm also a I'm a screenwriter, most recently of the movie "No Way Jose." I live with my husband, kids, dog, cats, and a tank full of surprisingly resilient fish, and I take bedtime around here as seriously as I do my morning coffee. Which is to say: I AM NOT KIDDING AROUND ABOUT BEDTIME.

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